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Mildred Farrar & Mary Loder

1905-1967  /  1902-1970

Artists, descent from James II & Nell Gwynn

Alexandra Wilson

Half way up the slopes of Smallcombe cemetery is a grave in the form of a stone seat.  With its chubby angel sculptures at each end and the artist’s palette engraved on the back of the seat, it is an intriguing tombstone.  Buried here, in 1967 and 1970 respectively, are Mildred Farrar and the Hon. Mary Loder.


The Honourable Mary Irene Loder was born on the 1st May 1902.  Mary was the daughter of Gerald Walter Erskine Loder, 1st Baron Wakehurst. Gerald Loder was a barrister and a Conservative MP for Brighton.  He developed the gardens at Wakehurst Place, Sussex, now owned by the National Trust and home to the Kew Botanical seed conservation project.  


Mary’s mother was Lady Louise de Vere Beauclerk, a personal friend of Queen Victoria’s and the daughter of the 10th Duke of St. Albans.  She was descended from the illegitimate royal line of King Charles II and Nell Gwyn. 

There is a photograph of Lady Louise in the National Portrait Gallery along with another photographic portrait of Mary’s sister, the Hon. Dorothy Cicely Sybil Palmer, by the society photographer, Bassano.  But no photos of Mary have come to light.


Mary had three sisters and one brother, John De Vere Loder, who was later Governor of New South Wales and had a distinguished career, including being a trustee of the Royal Opera House and being made a Knight of the Garter. 


It was rumoured that Mary Loder was an artist, but there was no evidence of her work.  However, the rumour turned out to be true when her name was found in a book, Twentieth-Century Pattern Design by Lesley Jackson, about textile and wallpaper pioneers in the 1930’s.


It transpired that Mary had worked with artists such as Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Cedric Morris, students of the Slade School of Art and the Central School of Art and Design, for an innovative design company, Allan Walton textiles.  Her work is not illustrated but the designs that are shown are bold, abstract shapes.  Sadly the war bought the business to an end and it is not known whether Mary continued with any design work. 


Mildred Rose Hebden Farrar came from more humble origins.  She was born on the 14th July 1905, although this is not consistent with the 1911 census, where she is recorded as being 14, making her birth date 1896.  She was the only daughter of James Farrar and Rose Seymour of Ingleborough, Yorkshire.  James Farrar was a bookkeeper in the corn trade, and, although it is not known what his actual connection with the estate of Ingleborough Hall was, the Hall was built and lived in by members of the Farrar family from the 18th century. 


However, Mildred’s parents moved away from their roots and Mildred was born in Hampstead.  She trained as an artist, probably at the Slade where hearsay has it that the two women met.  There is a series of linocut illustrations for The Mask of Comus by John Milton and Henry Lawes in a book printed by the Curwen Press and published by The Nonesuch Press, in 1937.  David Garnett, also known as ‘Bunny’, and Frances Meynell founded the Nonesuch Press in 1923. Both were members of the famous ‘Bloomsbury Group’ so it is likely that both Mildred and Mary would have met Virginia Woolf and her set. 


However, the only trace of Mildred and Mary’s life after that period is in a gossip column of an Australian newspaper, The Age. The paper reports that the Hon Mary Loder and Miss Farrar had been visiting friends and relations in Australia in 1961 and were sailing home on the Oriano.


Mary Loder seemed to favour the West Country and she moved several times to fairly grand houses.  Amongst them was The Court in Charlton Mackrell, South Somerset, recently noted in the Times as being one of Britain’s most romantic hotels with 28 bedrooms.  It is not known whether Mildred Farrar lived there with her or not.


In 1962 the two women moved to Bath, Mary having purchased Bathwick Grange, an ornate Italianate Villa on the North side of Bathwick Hill.  Bathwick Grange was built by the architect Henry Goodridge as his own residence with the money he’d made building William Beckford’s Tower.  This large villa with its distinctive tower and garden lies hidden behind a wall next door to the Youth Hostel on Bathwick Hill. 


Mary and Mildred do not appear to have been part of any Bath social scene and both women died at relatively young ages.  When Mildred Farrar died in 1967, she left her estate of £1,223 to Mary Loder.  When Mary Loder died at the age of 68 in 1970, she left her large estate of £56,850 to various beneficiaries. 


Their joint tombstone overlooking the peaceful Smallcombe valley marks a quiet life lived by two women artists. 

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Known for...

Artists and designers whose story encompasses Nell Gwyn, Charles II and the Bloomsbury Group.

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